A drunk driving offense can include more than just alcohol. Almost any controlled substance or drug that impairs your thinking can lead to a drunk driving charge. New Jersey law, like other states, specifically sets a “legal limit” for blood alcohol content (BAC). However, this same law does not specify an amount for other substances. Moreover, different controlled substances that could lead to a DWI arrest require different tests, which may not always be reliable.
This is outlined in a Colorado case where a driver charged with a DWI due to testing positive for the use marijuana was acquitted after arguing that the positive marijuana test cannot be proven to have impaired her while she driving. Although Colorado has significantly different laws than New Jersey on this issue, this state’s laws are gradually changing.
Marijuana: Colorado v. New Jersey Laws
Colorado is only one of a few states that have legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational use. In contrast, New Jersey still categorizes marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, exception for a few exceptions allowed by the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (CUMMA).
In the Colorado case, the defendant was pulled over for an expired license plate tag. During the stop, the officer noticed the smell of marijuana and required the motorist to perform field sobriety tests, which she allegedly failed. A blood test confirmed her level of marijuana was 19 nanograms, well above Colorado’s 5 nanogram limit. The defendant was charged with a DWI. The defendant repeatedly refused to take the plea deal offered by the prosecutor and went to trial, which is allowed in Colorado and not in New Jersey. The jury agreed with the argument that her test results were not conclusive of evidence that was driving impaired. The jury further agreed that a blood test for marijuana cannot actually determine whether a motorist is driving impaired, as it does for a BAC level check. The charges were nullified.
In New Jersey, any trace of marijuana in your system can serve as evidence in a drunk driving charge. Although the state has made some changes to how it approaches medical marijuana related cases, a medical marijuana patient still has the burden of proving that they legally possessed or used the drug. In other words, medical use of marijuana in a DWI case is an affirmative defense that the defendant must prove in court. As such, if you or someone you know is facing a DWI charge for the alleged use of medical marijuana, it is imperative that you immediately hire an experienced DWI attorney to protect your legal rights and fight the charges.
If you or someone you know has been charged with an alleged drunk driving charge in New Jersey or New York, an experienced DWI attorney can help. For more information or to schedule a free consultation with New Jersey drunk driving attorney Dan T. Matrafajlo, please call the Law Offices of Dan T. Matrafajlo at (908) 248-4404. One call can make a big difference.